glitChicago // Melissa Barron

Random House Cracked by Mr. Backup, jacquard woven cotton, 2010

Untitled [screencaptures] (2010)

The process of weaving, the crossing of vertical and horizontal threads, creates fabric for practical uses in everyday life. The way these threads come together is called a weave structure and it is what gives woven fabric its body and characteristic feel. The Jacquard loom can be used to make complex designs and images in fabric beyond the basic weave structures. It follows a programmed pattern to move the threads up and down automatically, either read from punch cards or data from a computer. This gives the user the ability to have control over every thread in the design. It allows for the same design to be used again and looks exactly the same each time. When designing patterns for fabric, it’s important to design the weave structure in a way that would keep the fabric held together. It's been said that the punch card Jacquard loom was the precursor to modern day computing. With this series, I wanted to experiment and lose some of that control and use the loom in a way that it wouldn’t normally be used. The source images are screen captures of crack screens from Apple 2 software. Instead of applying any sort of structure to these files, I directly imported them into the weaving software as is. The output was unpredictable. The fabric it created became essentially unusable and was falling apart soon after taking it off of the loom. When the weavings are touched or moved, the threads shift and look slightly different than before. They slowly deteriorate over time until the source image becomes unrecognizable. What is left is a piece that can’t be replicated even if the source image was woven again.

Historical Needlework Samplers [remixed] (2013-ongoing)

The sampler started out as a practical item and was used as a reference library of stitches and design motifs. Women would spend their entire lifetime filling every bit of space regularly adding new stitches and patterns that they learned along the way. They were unplanned and the placement of motifs were random. They would be stashed away until they were needed later on. Samplers would later evolve to become an important part of a young girls education where they would practice their sewing and mending skills that they would need later on in life. They featured alphabets, numbers, design patterns, proverbs and family records. The overall designs were more orderly and planned out. They became decorative pieces that were hung up prominently in the home. In this series, patterns for 16th-18th century historical samplers were cut apart and then reconstructed piece by piece. This slow process of stitching allowed for an unknown outcome that could only be seen unfold over a long period of time. When finished, the samplers are no longer recognizable as reference libraries or as life records of the original stitcher. If I were to stitch the same pattern over and over it would be different each time. These samplers are the beginnings of an entire body of work that will take years to complete due to the nature of the craft.

Melissa Barron’s fiber and video work has been shown at various international events including Notacon in Cleveland, Ohio, GLI.TC/H in Chicago, ISEA 2011 in Istanbul and recently at Glitchmoment/ums in London.